5 Essential Steps to Prepare Your Website for the Holiday Shopping Season & Beyond
As the holiday shopping season looms on the horizon, retailers are running out of time to ensure that their website is ready to cope with the anticipated surge in traffic.
For independent retailers competing on price is often tough, therefore, having a website experience that delights is vital to ensure once visitors come to the site it doesn’t stop them from making the critical leap from browsing to buying. Getting it right can mean the difference between thriving or dying especially for smaller retailers.
So, retailers should use the next few weeks to prepare their websites not only to ensure that the site can cope with surges in traffic but that it delivers a performance that delights by following these five essential steps.
Test through the eyes of the user
You need to understand how your website will perform under pressure. It’s critical to know precisely the point that the website will slow down and the point it stops working altogether. This requires testing how the site copes with increased levels of traffic under controlled conditions while measuring the outcome. Load testing is a vital first step that should be combined with Real User Monitoring (RUM). This enables you to look at the site through the eyes of the user providing real-time insights into how traffic impacts user behavior and ultimately revenue.
Speed really matters
Every retailer knows that a slow website can accelerate a decline in sales. However, for many independent retailers, they struggle to ensure that they have a consistently fast website. However, there are three keys areas worth focusing on that will help make speed a reality.
Caching is your BFF: If you give long cache lifetimes to static files that don’t change very often, visitors will be able to load them directly from their browser cache rather than from the website. As a result, those resources will load quicker, and it will reduce the pressure on the website’s systems.
Think small: Smaller web pages are also your friend as they load much faster than big ones. By reducing page sizes, optimizing images, minimizing text files and removing redundant content retailers can speed up their website. Without taking these steps, it increases the risk of the site slowing or falling over under pressure.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN): CDNs make websites faster by delivering content closer to the end user and making sites much more resilient. If visitors are downloading content for the website from various locations, it means the website will be under less stress at peak times.
Audit third parties
Most retailers rely on third-party services, carrying out functions such as feature detection, remarketing, and analytics. Therefore, you need to ensure those services are prepared especially as they are affected by the traffic patterns of multiple websites, so are at risk of slowing down or failing during seasonal peaks. An audit of third-party content on your site will help you assess the potential downtime risks.
Review last year’s data but don’t rely on it
It’s always worth reviewing the previous year’s data to understand what the traffic patterns were. However, don’t assume that everything will remain the same as each season multiple factors impact traffic from promotional strategies to some products being in fashion. So, retailers should look but not rely on old data.
Once you have your site optimized and ready to cope with the surge in traffic, don’t sit back and think everything is fine. You need to make digital performance management a continuous process. This last step is the most important step for ensuring your website continues to delight beyond this holiday shopping season.
By following these five steps independent retailers will be able to ensure that their website is ready for the holiday shopping season and beyond.
Eggplant’s intelligent automation and performance solutions enable retailers to quickly and easily understand the user experience across all touch points. Its cross-platform automated testing capabilities allow retailers to test, monitor, analyze, and report on the quality and responsiveness of software applications.
Contributed By Antony Edwards, CTO
Antony is a proven product and technology leader with extensive experience in enterprise software and mobile computing.